By Chris Arrant
This summer, The Ultimate Comics line evolves once again.
Working under the banner of Ultimate Comics Universe Reborn, writers Jonathan Hickman and Nick Spencer join stalwart Brian Michael Bendis as well as an array of artists including Esad Ribic, Paco Medina and Sara Pichelli to chart a new course. Following the wake of the death of Spider-Man in ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN #160, the Ultimate Universe enters a new state of turmoil with ULTIMATE FALLOUT. Hot on the heels of that six-issue series, the trio of writers re-launch the line with new first issues for ULTIMATE COMICS SPIDER-MAN, ULTIMATE COMICS X-MEN and ULTIMATE COMICS ULTIMATES as well as an ULTIMATE COMICS HAWKEYE limited series.
Editors Mark Paniccia and Sana Amanat guide these creators into this new era of the Ultimate line and have taken time out to discuss topics ranging from Spider-Man’s death to the new status quo for the Ultimates and the X-Men going forward.
But that’s not all, as we’ll be asking Mark and Sana your questions in a special Ultimate Comics Fan Q&A next Tuesday. How do you get your query in there? Head over to Twitter and tweet @Marvel with your question and use the hashtag #MarvelQandA to grab our attention.
|ULTIMATE COMICS SPIDER-MAN #1 cover by Sara Pichelli|
Marvel.com: This new era for the Ultimate Comics line reminds me of the big shift after ULTIMATUM and even the initial launch in 2000. How did this all coalesce into what we’re seeing today?
Mark Paniccia: We’d had a major creative summit to discuss what the plans were for the next decade of the Ultimate Universe. A lot of cool things were done over the course of the line’s first 10 years and it was time for us to look at what we had and how we were going to take it to the next level. That eventually led to the Death of Spider-Man event. The Ultimate line has always leaned towards a real world approach to the super hero story, and the Death of Spider-Man event really took that to another level. I think we told a story with impact and meaning, but one that also said that it’s time to close that chapter and enter a new one.
Marvel.com: Like you said, Spider-Man’s death puts into motion what’s coming up in Ultimate Comics Universe Reborn. How exactly does that death color the Ultimate Universe going forward? It seemed like Peter Parker was in many ways the flagship and mascot for the Ultimate line itself.
Mark Paniccia: Something like this was going to have a natural resonance and impact on all the characters of the Ultimate Universe and gave us a great place to re-launch the core titles. Peter’s death touches everyone. For some it’s a more direct punch to the gut, for others it’s one of many hard hits that are taking a toll. At the end of the day, this was just a kid who tried to be a hero, and it ended in the worst way imaginable. That in itself has long-range and long-term effects. For the Ultimates it’s the consequences of their politicking and super heroics, and for Peter’s friends, mutants and younger heroes like Kitty Pryde and Johnny Storm, it’s a wake-up call to the reality of their powers. One of them was killed, and that changes everything.
|ULTIMATE FALLOUT #2 cover by Bryan Hitch|
Marvel.com: And that all comes to bear in the upcoming limited series ULTIMATE FALLOUT written by the new writers of the Ultimate line. This series has been built up built up as the crux of this transformation, but as far as story goes, details have been kept pretty close to the vest. What can you tell us about the story, or at least what to expect?
Sana Amanat: The title says it all. It’s what happens after the unthinkable happens. It will reacquaint people with the Ultimate Universe and what to expect next while closing up some important storylines. And it’ll also be a visual feast; we’ve recruited some of Marvel’s top talent to help envision the stories Bendis, Hickman and Spencer have created.
Marvel.com: We’ve seen THE ULTIMATES and the ULTIMATE X-MEN series evolve over the past 10 years with several incarnations. But what is the status quo coming into the Ultimate Comics Universe Reborn era here?
Sana Amanat: That’s hard to describe without giving too much away, but needless to say it’s all coalescing to one big breaking point between heroes, mutants and men. What happens with the Ultimates will impact the X-Men, and vice versa. The Ultimates have taken a major hit and are struggling to be relevant, whereas the X-Men are facing a major identity crisis. The Ultimate Universe will reach new heights and really come into its own. The world may have gotten smaller, but the threats haven’t in the least.
|ULTIMATE COMICS X-MEN #1 cover by Paco Medina|
Marvel.com: How will the events we’ve seen in Jeph Loeb and Art Adams’ ULTIMATE COMICS X factor into the new ULTIMATE COMICS X-MEN series?
Mark Paniccia: What Loeb and Adams have done in ULTIMATE COMICS X is very much the backbone of the new series. Everything that they created [leads] up to the next incarnation of the Ultimate X-Men. Loeb and Adams gave us the characters’ origin stories, and Spencer and Paco Medina will take those characters to the next phase of their lives. The spirit of ULTIMATE COMICS X is very much alive in ULTIMATE COMICS X-MEN, so while we’ll see thrilling new storylines, we’ll still be dealing with the same motifs that resonated with Ultimate fans.
Marvel.com: In addition to the three ongoing series and FALLOUT, you’ve also got Hawkeye coming into his own solo limited series. Can you tell us about how that spins off on its own?
Sana Amanat: Hawkeye is off on a solo secret mission in the Far East in order to retrieve a very important serum—and no, it’s not a super soldier one. It’s the raw, uninhibited Ultimate Hawkeye that we all love. So while he’s on a mission that has repercussions on the rest of the Ultimate Universe, this story will show Clint at his best as he faces new foes and forms a very unlikely ally. It’s an action-packed espionage tale that will be high-octane thriller in its own right.
Marvel.com: Stepping back for the big picture here, what would you say sets apart these Ultimate titles from their standard Marvel universe counterparts?
|ULTIMATE COMICS HAWKEYE #1 cover by Kaare Andrews|
Sana Amanat: Like [Marvel Editor-in-Chief] Axel [Alonso] has said, the Ultimate Universe is a place where literally anything can happen. And because you’re dealing with only four series, you’ll really be able to see the full span of a story arc throughout all the titles. Asides from the very distinct character incarnations in the Ultimate Universe, you’ll find storylines and characters that Marvel Universe hasn’t done before. And because we’re not as knee-deep in continuity, we’ve got a lot of room to go wild.
Marvel.com: Let’s talk about the writers heading up this new era—you have Ultimate co-founder Brian Bendis joined by relative newcomers to Marvel in Jonathan Hickman and Nick Spencer. What made them the picks to carry the Ultimate concept to the next stage? What do they each bring to the table?
Sana Amanat: Well Bendis, needless to say is a giant among men when it comes to comic book writing. He not only is one of the founding fathers of the Ultimate Universe, but he really created a unique and beloved brand with ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN which will have an impact on readers for generations to come. Having him at the helm of this with the new ULTIMATE COMICS SPIDER-MAN really keeps us true to the essence of what the Ultimate line is all about. Meanwhile Hickman and Spencer are both amazing storytellers and creators in their own right. Because they’ve got a lot of freedom with the Ultimate line, you’re really seeing their creative genius shine through here, bringing a fresh and exciting approach to their respective titles. So that matched with Brian’s expertise has really helped us find the perfect balance for the next stage of the Ultimate Universe.
|ULTIMATE COMICS SPIDER-MAN #1 cover by Kaare Andrews|
Marvel.com: That covers the writers, but what can you say about the artists working on Ultimate Comics Universe Reborn?
Sana Amanat: We’re very lucky to have gotten an amazing group of artists here. Every creative team has a unique visual style that is perfectly suited for the projects they’re on, and I am blown away every time I see pages come in. I kid you not, I shiver in excitement. This is the most stunning Ultimate Universe yet.
On ULTIMATE COMICS X-MEN, Paco Medina, Juan Vlasco and Marte Gracia, are the creators for a teen action drama and complement each other on the page flawlessly. Medina’s character designs and overall aesthetic sensibility pay tribute to Art Adams’ run beautifully.
With ULTIMATE COMICS HAWKEYE, Rafa Sandoval alongside inker Jordi Tarragona and colorist Brad Anderson build a world that is seeped with intrigue and suspense. Rafa has really upped up the ante here with explosive set pieces and unbelievable action sequences.
In ULTIMATE COMICS ULTIMATES, Esad Ribic and Dean White literally explode upon the page. This is the Ultimates as we’ve always wanted to see them. This is Esad and Dean at their best.
Sara Pichelli and Justin Ponsor bring you everything you’ve been expecting in ULTIMATE COMICS SPIDER-MAN and more. Pichelli is on her A-game and has already made this new Spider-Man an icon. That matched with Ponsor’s killer colors make this the prettiest looking book out there.
Kaare Andrews rounds off this universe with his phenomenal covers. He brings back that old school Ultimate vibe, but revs it up ten-fold bringing you cutting-edge covers that jump off the shelves and really set the right tone for this [re-launch].
Marvel.com: In many ways, the Ultimate line presaged a lot of the concepts and approaches what the Marvel movies like “Iron Man” and “Thor” came to be. Would you say that still holds true for this new slate of titles, and how?
|ULTIMATE COMICS ULTIMATES #1 cover by Esad Ribic|
Sana Amanat: Absolutely. The Ultimate line has always tried to take a more realistic and accessible approach to storytelling. That’s what gets us new readers and that’s what works in film. But over time stories got larger, characters increased, and accessibility began to wane. With this next segment, we are still very much in the Ultimate Universe, but this is by no means a sequel. We will bring you into a world that’s familiar, but new all at the same time. The level of storytelling in the writing and art of these stories are the stuff that inspires films. The future of super hero stories starts right here, folks, and its going to be ridiculously awesome.
Remember to tweet your questions for Mark and Sana @Marvel with the hashtag #MarvelQandA and we’ll see you next week for the Ultimate Fan Q&A!